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TOP TEN PNW WATERFALLS (in no particular order)
Spend even the smallest amount of time in the Pacific Northwest and you are bound to find a waterfall or two. We have put together a list of our favorites. This is basically the best list you can find on the interwebs so you should use this list when planning your adventures. I will be updating this post or perhaps creating another with GPS locations to these waterfalls. Read below and enjoy.
Hands down the most well known falls in the PNW. Basically because it is awesome. Besides the super cool bridge, what makes it cool is the falls drops in two major steps. The upper section falls 542 feet and the lower falls 69 feet. It also has a gradual nine foot drop in elevation between the two, so the total height of the waterfall is 620 feet which makes Multnomah Falls the tallest waterfall in Oregon. The U.S. Forest Service even put a sign up near the falls recognizing it as the second tallest year-round waterfall in the U.S.
“Toketee” is a Chinook word for graceful. One look at these falls dropping into a lower pool of turquoise water, and you’ll be thinking Toketee as well. This waterfall also has two major drops with a combining drop of 120 feet. These falls were carved from ancient columnar basalt which is pretty awesome. Water flow from the Umpqua River helps the falls avoids the seasonal fluctuations of other waterfalls in Oregon so its always an incredible site to see anytime of the year. The waterfall is regulated by a dam upstream which now regulates and reduces the water flow over the falls. The dam creates what we know as Toketee Lake. Back in they day the full force of the Umpqua River was allowed to flow over the falls. Now the flow has been reduced to utilize the drop of the falls to generate electricity. The hike is pretty mellow, just over half a mile with some stairs that lead to an overlook.
Located just outside of North Bend, this is one of my favorite little day trips. The 268 foot drop on the Snoqualmie River is famous! It has appeared in the cult TV series, “Twin Peaks,” as well as several films like Jeff Bridges ultra creepy “The Vanishing.” The waterfall is fantastic all year, but heavy rains and snow melt definitely play a part in which version you will see. There is also hiking trails, a gift shop, many observation decks and the Salish Lodge. Usually you can see the lodge perched right above falls in most pictures. The few trips we have made to the falls, we usually find locals and tourists hanging out below the falls on the Snoqualmie River. For the Snoqualmie People, who have lived for centuries in the Snoqualmie Valley in western Washington, Snoqualmie Falls is central to their culture, beliefs, and spirituality. A traditional burial site, to the Snoqualmie, the falls are “the place where First Woman and First Man were created by Moon the Transformer” and “where prayers were carried up to the Creator by great mists that rise from the powerful flow.” The mists rising from the base of the waterfall are said to serve to connect Heaven and Earth.
Jordan Creek Falls
One of the biggest Northwest waterfalls, Jordan Creek is one of the many waterfalls from the Cascade Range in Washington State. What’s really cool about these falls is it nearly 600 feet high and spans 120 feet across. Jordan Creek Falls is super unique and you will definitely get some good shots for the ‘gram on your trip here.
Bridal Veil Falls
These falls are created from Lake Serene. Bridal Veil Falls drops from over 1,300 feet creating an awesome image of a bride’s veil. I think that might be where the name comes from? Pretty much all year round the waterfall will span at least 140 feet wide. There are four drops, two of which are clearly visible. A pretty chill hiking trail leads to the falls from a parking area to the falls.
Some of the prettiest and most easily accessible falls in Mt. Rainier National Park, Christine Falls offers a charming intimate setting for viewing the powerful falls. This signature view of the lower falls is framed by the historic, arching Christine Falls Bridge. The falls drop 69 feet in drops of 32 and 37 feet and are known for being nearly impossible to photograph together. Since the lower drop of the waterfall is spanned by a bridge it most often photographed – and photographed often. The lower tier is probably the most commonly photographed locations in the Mount Rainier area. The upper tier of the fall is not as easily viewed. Find this little gem on the road to Paradise. The falls were named by P.B. Van Trump in honor of his daughter, Christine. In 1889 Christine, then nine years old, accompanied her father on an ascent of Mount Rainier, as far as her strength would allow. She made it to the 10,000 foot level, even though she had a crippling nervous disorder.
These falls on the Snake River are Idaho’s shining jewel. With many outdoor recreational facilities in the area, Shoshone Falls would be a great trip to consider. Sometimes called the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high which is 45 feet higher than Niagara Falls and flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet wide. Formed by catastrophic outburst flooding during the Pleistocene ice age about 14,000 years ago, Shoshone Falls marks the historical upper limit of fish migration in the Snake River, and was an important fishing and trading place for Native Americans. The falls were documented by Europeans as early as the 1840’s. Despite the isolated location, it became a tourist attraction starting in the 1860’s. Shoshone Falls is best viewed in the spring, as diversion of the Snake River often significantly diminishes water levels in the late summer and fall. The flow over the falls ranges from over 20,000 cubic feet per second during late spring of wet years, to a minimum “scenic flow” of 300 cubic feet per second in dry years.
The hike to Wallace falls is a litte more work than the others previously mentioned, but the waterfall view set in the lush Cascade valley is 100% worth it. Wallace Falls is in a State Park of 4,735 acres. It features three waterfalls, old-growth coniferous forests, fast-moving rivers and streams, and three backcountry lakes: Wallace, Jay, and Shaw. The name Wallace is actually from the last name of Joe and Sarah Kwayaylsh, members of the Skykomish tribe, who were the first homesteaders in the area. Visible in the park is evidence of logging, including railroad trestle ruins, old railroad grades, and springboard notches in old stumps. There are three falls inside the park. The first is Upper Wallace Falls, which cannot be viewed in its entirety, dropping 240 feet in five separate tiers. Shortly below it is the highlight of the park, 367-foot Wallace Falls, which falls in three sections. The largest of which drops 265 feet and can be seen from the Skykomish Valley. The falls’ viewpoint is usually pretty crowded but its worth it man. Downstream is Lower Wallace Falls, which drops 212 feet in five tiers. The park has 12 miles of hiking trails 5 miles of biking trails. You could do this as a day trip or spend a weekend here. Plenty to do and see my friends
Drift Creek Falls
Drift Creek is a big ass 75 foot free falling waterfall. The trail features a 240 foot long cable suspension bridge that reminds me of some Indiana Jones type stuff. The bridge is definitely one of the reason why it made it on our list. Located near Lincoln city, this is basically a must do if you are doing the Oregon Coast thing. The beaches and lighthouses are amazing but this waterfall is a good switch up from the beach scenes. The trail to Drift Creek Falls is approximately 2.6 miles out and back through the Central Oregon Coast Range forest of Drift Creek Wilderness.
Sol Duc Falls
If you want to take a journey through the heart of Olympic National Park, hike to Sol Duc Falls. This waterfall is also one of the most photographed in the PNW, but pictures don’t do it justice for sure. From a wooden bridge, you can see all the way down the canyon in one direction and in the other the Sol Duc Falls. The hike, more like walk is about a mile that begins just a couple miles from Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort. Sol Duc Falls is also not to far from Lake Crescent which is also a place you should check out. Near the Pacific Ocean the Sol Duc River joins the Bogachiel River, forming the Quillayute River, which flows about 4 miles to the Pacific Ocean at La Push. Also, U.S. Route 101 follows the Sol Duc River for many miles through Olympic National Forest and the Sol Duc Valley to the vicinity of Forks. The city of Forks is so named due to the close convergence of the Sol Duc, Bogachiel, and Calawah Rivers. I am telling you this because odds are you or someone you now wants to go where Twilight was filmed, which is Forks. Everyone will think you are so cool when you tell them why it was named Forks.
A 100 foot ribbon of white water falling down a steep wall of dark volcanic rock covered in moss and ferns. Fun fact: to get to this waterfall you’ll have to do an off-trail adventure up Oneonta Gorge that involves wading through crystal clear waters. The short trip to Lower Oneonta Falls is under a mile with obstacles along the way. There are downed tree trunks to climb over, rock walls to shimmy, and waist deep icy cold PNW waters to wade through. This hike is super awesome, but not for everyone. The trek to Lower Oneonta Falls begins from Historic Columbia River Highway, just west of Horseshoe Falls. Look for a sign for Oneonta Gorge on the west side of a bridge over Oneonta Creek. Descend a staircase at the west end of the bridge and begin walking up the gorge. The gorge runs pretty straight south and there are tall rock walls on both sides so its basically impossible to get lost. During the spring wet season, Oneonta Gorge may be impassable and the water will be cold super cold.
Silver Falls (State Park)
Silver Falls State Park is the crown jewel of the Oregon State Parks system, being both Oregon’s largest State Park and boasting one of America’s most impressive waterfall day-hikes. There are no less than ten falls on this 8.7-mile loop (which can be reduced via two cutoff trails), and most of them are flat-out gorgeous. Unfortunately, doggo’s are not allowed on the Canyon Trail portion of the hike—which is where the waterfalls are found. You will also see plenty of other visitors on the trail for good reason. Silver Falls was designated as a “Recreational Demonstration Area” by President Roosevelt in 1934 and developed as a park by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which included the lodge’s construction. And before that, it was the life’s passion of June D. Drake, a Silverton-area photographer who led a 20-year campaign to designate the area a park. For his efforts, one of the ten falls here bears his name.
SUPER BONUS WATERFALLS!!
My super secret and very official TOP TEN list of PNW waterfalls.
1. Multnomah Falls
2. Snoqualmie Falls
3. Toketee Falls
4. Christine Falls
5. Oneonta Falls
6. Silver Falls
7. Sol Duc Falls
8. Wallace Falls
9. Shoshone Falls
10. Drift Creek Falls